L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
Mix a foreign place, friends from around the world, never-ending nights out and just enough romantic drama and what do you get? The quintessential study abroad experience. That is exactly what takes place in L'Auberge Espagnole, the popular multilingual movie featuring the slightly awkward Xavier, played by Romain Duris, a Paris native, and his year of finding his place in a modern, multi-cultural world.
The movie begins in Paris, where we meet Xavier and his very French girlfriend Martine, played by Audrey Tautou. Inspired in part by a sense of wanderlust, and in part because a business friend of his father's insists that learning Spanish will be an asset when dealing with European markets, Xavier decides to do a year of graduate studies in economics through the ERASMUS exchange program in Barcelona.
Xavier leaves his girlfriend in Paris and departs for the unknown of Barcelona. One of the first scenes of him in the city, he is trying to navigate the jumble of Spanish and Catalan names of streets, naming off well-known Barcelona places and metro stops like Urqinoa. On a budget, he ends up sharing an apartment with six other twenty-somethings, hailing from England, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium, indicative of the modern European melting pot. They all have their stereotypes: the sloppy Italian, the linguistically impaired Brit, the efficient German, etc.
In the midst of studying and discovering Barcelona, Xavier falls into a romantic relationship with a married French woman. Their love affair takes the viewer through Barcelona landmarks like Park Guell and la Sagrada Familia. When Xavier's actual girlfriend comes to visit, they realize they have drifted apart, both in a physical and an emotional sense; emblematic of what often happens when we move away.
The city plays just as much a role as the small, funky apartment that the characters share does. Barcelona is the ideal city to mirror the lives of Xavier and his friends: bright, colorful, and slightly chaotic. In this lively place, we start to see that Xavier and his roommates are symbols of a younger generation of Europeans.
Outdated stereotypes, like the sloppy Italian and the efficient German, give way to integrated interaction, where everyone manages to find a way to live together and coexist; the Europe of today.
L'Auberge Espagnole is more than a view into a young twenty-something's year abroad. It is a movie about being in a new place and finding oneself in today's multi-cultural world, evoking the recognizable sentiments of being lost, ecstatic and confused all at the same time. – Anna Brones